Poverty Reduction Blog Tag: Results
Posted on March 21, 2014 by Deborah von Zinkernagel, Acting U.S.Global AIDS Coordinator, and Daniel W. Yohannes, Chief Executive Officer
Today, our agencies opened a new collaborative chapter by signing a memorandum of agreement to advance the sustainability of PEPFAR (the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief) programs. This agreement launches a three-year partnership between the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) and the State Department’s Office of the Global AIDS Coordinator, which manages PEPFAR, that will tap into what we each do best.
MCC’s experience with country-owned assistance programs together with PEPFAR’s excellence in providing support to national programs will come together to help evolve and enhance how PEPFAR resources are planned strategically together with partner countries, with the aim of making real and impactful progress toward an AIDS-free generation.
What does this mean, and why does it matter?
It means strengthening partnerships between the United States and PEPFAR countries built on mutual responsibility, accountability, transparency, and leadership. To be sustainable, it is critical that partner countries increasingly lead, manage, and implement their own HIV/AIDS response. These solutions must truly be national and include stakeholders across government and party lines, civil society, faith-based organizations, the private sector, and donor partners. This level of engagement captures homegrown expertise and builds on it, giving countries a huge stake in delivering the results. As countries take the reins, they move toward greater self-sufficiency. Simultaneously, scientific evidence and proven programmatic approaches must continue to inform our efforts.
Guided by science and the principle of country ownership, our collaboration will allow us to learn from one another. It will deepen our knowledge, advance best practices and add to the growing body of evidence about what makes foreign assistance successful.
Signing the memorandum between our two offices is a promising start. What is key now is turning that promise into convincing proof that country-designed and country-driven strategies—grounded in science, shared responsibility, accountability, and transparency—can most sustainably provide prevention, treatment and care for those living with HIV/AIDS and contribute, ultimately, to an AIDS-free generation. We look forward to seeing that future unfold.
Deborah von Zinkernagel is the Acting U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator, and Daniel W. Yohannes is the Chief Executive Officer of the Millennium Challenge Corporation.
Posted on January 28, 2014 by Dr. Ruhul Amin, Chief of Party, USAID-MCC Immunization Protects Children Project
It was a lovely, bright morning as I walked beside the broad, blue river that passes through the district town of Viqueque in Timor-Leste. Kids were heading to school in their colorful uniforms, shouting "Bondia!” (“Good morning!”) to me. It made me smile to see them going to school to make their lives and their young country better. At the same time, I worried about the many challenges they face in a country with one of the world’s poorest populations.
Timor-Leste is just 11 years old. Its health and development indicators, including immunization coverage, are among the worst in Asia. About 23 percent of 1-year-old children did not receive any immunizations, and the country has experienced several outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases in recent years. For example, more than 800 people contracted measles—and eight people died—during a nationwide outbreak in 2011.
As I walked to the district health center in Viqueque where the staff of the immunization project that I lead helps the Ministry of Health to improve immunization services, I wondered if the school kids in the group were fully immunized. Some of the diseases that we treat successfully through immunization in the United States can be deadly in Timor-Leste.
Timor-Leste’s $10.5 million Threshold Program focuses on anti-corruption initiatives and immunization. Under the $2.6 million immunization component, MCC is helping address the country’s low immunization rates by working with USAID and the Timorese Ministry of Health to increase coverage of the measles vaccine and the third dose of the diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis (DTP3) vaccine. The project targets seven of the country's 13 districts, focusing on areas where more than 75 percent of under-immunized Timorese children under 5 years of age live.
The program provides technical assistance to the Ministry to improve the effectiveness, quality and accessibility of immunization services. This involves training staff, developing and applying new tools, providing staff and transport assistance, and coordinating community engagement activities, better reporting, mentoring, and supervision. Project implementers have been working hard to reach hard-to-reach communities by whatever means necessary—on foot, on horseback, by boat, and once by U.S. Navy helicopters.
In Timor-Leste, families often lack the basics, including proper nutrition, clean water and sanitation and fundamental health services. Delivering health services is one of the biggest challenges that the Ministry of Health faces. The average walking distance from a household to the nearest health facility is more than an hour, and during the wet season even short distances become impassable. Although health services from public health facilities are free, parents still lose a day’s wages on transport costs. Most parents follow traditional beliefs and practices and do not seek care from a health facility except for the most serious problems.
The immunization program has already produced some impressive results. DPT3 coverage in Baucau, the country’s second largest city, increased from 74 percent when the program began in January 2011 to 100 percent by June 2013.
The program’s success goes beyond Baucau. The Ministry of Health reports a significant increase in immunization coverage in Timor-Leste. DTP3 coverage nationwide increased from 67 percent in 2011 to 78 percent in 2013. The districts that are the focus of the MCC-funded program saw immunization coverage reach 84 percent.
Challenges remain in providing adequate immunization coverage throughout the country. Essential drugs and immunizations are sometimes out of stock. Deliveries of fuel for cold-chain refrigerators are delayed. Vehicles sometimes don't have enough fuel to travel to remote communities. But the Government of Timor-Leste has been working diligently to overcome these obstacles, and I'm happy that I am part of the effort to provide all Timorese a healthier future.
Posted on December 3, 2013 by Carolyn Pryor, Program Officer, Mongolia
As I reflect on the three years that I worked on the Mongolia Compact, I am proud to have been a part of such a significant contribution to the country’s development in several crucial sectors—a contribution that will ultimately improve the lives of millions of Mongolians.
I joined MCC in 2010, shortly after MCA-Mongolia and MCC agreed to add two new projects, with only three years remaining in the compact’s life. The new Energy and Environment Project (EEP) was slated to target ever-growing air pollution in Ulaanbaatar, and the new North-South Road Project would pave a critical portion of highway connecting Mongolia to its key trade partners Russia and China. These two projects were particularly aspirational because there were only two construction seasons and two winter seasons remaining in the compact.
With MCA-Mongolia’s diligence and the contractor’s commitment to complete the project, the road was finished on time and on budget, while adhering to international environmental and social standards. The perseverance and ambition of the project team to complete this very difficult task within an extremely limited time frame, and in the severe construction climate contractors experience in Mongolia, is quite an impressive accomplishment.
Additionally, the EEP was able to subsidize nearly 100,000 energy-efficient stoves in just two winter seasons. I was able to meet several beneficiaries, and every single person spoke of the fuel savings for their families because of the new stoves. I also met a female sub-district leader who was involved with the EEP’s Greening Grants initiative. Her sense of ownership and pride shined through her stories. She said that she had always wanted to grow trees on her plot of land in the impoverished ger district in Ulaanbaatar, but she did not know how to sustain the health of the trees and shrubs in the harsh Mongolian winters. Through the initiative, she was able to learn about proper tree maintenance, while teaching others and keeping track of the neighbors who participated in the program. Not only did this initiative enable this woman to become a leader in her community, it also enabled this impoverished district to plant foliage in a sustainable manner.
During a visit to Mongolia in July, I noticed immediately the change among people working to create a smoke-free environment. At restaurants and countryside ger camps, I saw patrons stepping outside of restaurants to smoke. The Health Project’s involvement in creating smoke free provinces—along with the new Tobacco Control Law— drove this effort, and the change in daily life in Ulaanbaatar and the countryside is evident.
Another aspect of the Health Project that was particularly striking was my visit to Shastin Hospital. The state-of-the-art Stroke and Cardiac Intensive Care Unit established under the compact is a profound step forward in the treatment, management and diagnosis of stroke and cardiac disease in Mongolia. The equipment provided by the compact, coupled with training, will save many lives from these diseases and reduce incidences of disabilities. The rehabilitation unit will help patients suffering from these ailments recuperate more quickly. As a daughter of someone who has suffered from multiple heart attacks, this new unit’s ability to save the lives of Mongolian fathers, mothers, daughters, and sons from one of the most prevalent causes of disability and death in Mongolia strikes a personal chord.
The compact’s involvement in the property rights sector also made crucial progress in bringing economic growth to the most impoverished and vulnerable Mongolians. One beneficiary of the urban component of the Property Rights Project personally told me that the registration process she went through for her plot took her two months; previously, it would have taken her a year. I met with a female herder group leader near Baaganuur, who demonstrated her pride in the investments made in her land plot, including a well and winter shelter area for her cattle. She was working as an interlocutor between other local herders and the dairy market, helping promote sustainable economic growth for her industry as well as the herders in the surrounding areas.
Such investments in infrastructure, health, property rights, and the reduction of air pollution were complemented by the Technical and Vocational Education and Training Project, which trained the leaders of tomorrow in the technical skills needed to properly meet the demands of the growing industries in Mongolia. During my visit to the Zarvkhan Vocational Training Production Center, I learned firsthand about new up-to-date training equipment and simulators that teach students to use heavy-duty machinery properly. Students at this center had high employment rates after graduation and were actually teaching their employers about the newest tricks of the trade!
Finally, it is important to note the government’s commitment to sustain the compact’s results. The Ministry of Economic Development and the Cabinet Secretariat have committed to continue managing like MCA-Mongolia—with a program logic based on economic rates of return, projects that uphold international environmental and social standards and diligent monitoring and evaluation.
I congratulate MCA-Mongolia on the successful completion of all the complex compact projects. This impressive accomplishment will benefit Mongolians for decades to come.
Posted on October 11, 2013 by Cassandra Butts, Senior Advisor
In Burkina Faso, girls will celebrate the second annual International Day of the Girl Child by attending school thanks to a groundbreaking investment by the Millennium Challenge Corporation in the BRIGHT (Burkinabe Response to Improve Girls’ Chances to Succeed) program. The United Nations determined that this year’s day will focus on “Innovating for Girls Education,” and innovation is at the heart of the BRIGHT program.
To improve educational outcomes for all children in rural villages with low school enrollments, particularly girls, the BRIGHT program was implemented in 132 rural villages throughout Burkina Faso. Each village received primary school construction and an innovative suite of complementary interventions for students, parents and teachers to encourage school attendance and enhance educational environments.
For students, the interventions included school meals, take-home rations for girls, school kits, and textbooks. Parental and community interventions included adult literacy training for mothers, community information campaigns on the benefits of education, especially the education of girls, and community capacity building on the importance of sustaining educational assets. Teachers also benefited through better school facilities including teacher housing, the recruitment of additional female teachers and gender sensitivity training.
The evidence shows that the BRIGHT program’s innovation is producing results. A recent analysis of the program published by economists Harounan Kazianga, Dan Levy, Leigh L. Linden, and Matt Sloan in the July 2013 issue of American Economic Journal: Applied Economics found that the BRIGHT program increased enrollment by 19 percentage points and increased test scores by 0.41 after 2.5 years. The findings also identified BRIGHT success in targeting girls for enrollment, with an increase of 5 percentage points more than boys. And when comparing the BRIGHT “girl friendly” interventions to a regular school, the findings identified an increase in enrollment of 13 percentage points above a regular school’s effect.
Achieving results is at the core of MCC’s model, and the results of this independent analysis are consistent with what we see on the ground. The BRIGHT program is changing the lives of communities, families and girl children throughout Burkina Faso.
Aisattou Hamidou Diallo and Fatimata Yanta (pictured) are two such girl children who participated in the BRIGHT program and came to Washington, DC in 2011 to share their stories of challenge and achievement. The many memories of their visit include meeting First Lady Michelle Obama at the White House to celebrate the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month. Aisattou and Fatimata have gone on to secondary school, where they continue to achieve and build on their BRIGHT experience.
Results like these should be celebrated every day and particularly on the International Day of the Girl Child.
Posted on October 3, 2013 by Paul Weinberger, Vice President of Congressional and Public Affairs
After six months at MCC, I have been looking forward to the opportunity to visit a partner country and see for myself the results of the work we are doing. With one of our larger, more ambitious compacts coming to a close in Morocco, the opportunity presented itself—and it turned out to be a memorable trip.
Travelling with former Ambassador Mark Green, one of our private-sector Board members and the President of the Initiative for Global Development (Read his blog on the trip here: http://bit.ly/1aL0YEm), I met a range of beneficiaries and saw a number of successful projects. Our first day there, we took part in a ceremony marking the completion of our microfinance project. Thanks to MCC, mobile banking vehicles will help microfinance institutions reach those Moroccans who currently lack access to financial services because they live in remote, sparsely populated areas. Meeting with beneficiaries and handing out keys to the vehicles were great experiences.
We also visited a new fish landing site at Salé, just across the Bouregreg River from Rabat, where grateful Moroccan fishers will have the facilities and infrastructure they currently lack to unload, store and sell their catches. We toured gleaming new wholesale fish markets in Marrakesh and Rabat with ice-making and storage facilities, and auction halls where fish prices are electronically recorded and displayed, providing the transparency and price discovery that are key to a well-functioning market. And we saw some of the improved irrigation systems and an olive oil processing plant under construction outside Marrakesh that were built as part of Moroccan efforts to boost fruit tree productivity. It was particularly gratifying to see the large sign at every site that reminds beneficiaries that projects result from the generosity of the “peuple américain.”
That same gratitude was apparent in our meetings with Moroccan government officials. What struck me, however, was that while they were very appreciative of the tangible benefits of the compact, they were even more excited about the methodology and know-how that MCC had shared with them. As one official put it, it wasn’t just the work that was done – how it was done was key. Now the Moroccans have the tools they need to make similar progress in other areas. That kind of knowledge sharing is core to MCC’s mission–and experiencing it firsthand was the best part of my trip to Morocco.
Posted on May 16, 2013 by Sheila Herrling, Vice President for Policy and Evaluation
On April 29th at the G8 International Conference on Open Data for Agriculture, the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) unveiled a new evaluation data catalog to house all the data collected through our independent evaluations. Right now, the public can view metadata from agriculture programs in Armenia, Ghana, El Salvador, and the Philippines on the catalog at data.mcc.gov/evaluations, including descriptive statistics for surveys of an estimated 5,000 households in Armenia, 9,300 households in Ghana, 1,700 individuals in El Salvador, and 2,400 households in the Philippines.
The data catalog is designed to contain all of the information that documents and describes MCC-financed independent evaluations, including information on evaluation questions, the types of surveys conducted for the evaluation and the population of interest, questionnaires, sampling methods, and descriptive statistics for household- and individual-level data. The data catalog is fully searchable down to the variable level, allowing for comparison across datasets. In addition, as microdata for each survey is reviewed by MCC’s Disclosure Review Board and is approved for public release, the catalog will host public-use datasets and statistical analyses files for replicating the independent evaluator’s results or conducting separate analysis.
The launch of the catalog is just the beginning of a series of planned data releases. We aim to release as much of our independent evaluation data to the public as possible. We’ve developed an institutional process to enable us to do this over the coming months. It is a labor-intensive effort, but that’s a small price to pay for pushing the boundaries of transparency and accountability to get this huge stock of data into the public domain. And we are delighted to be ahead of the curve on President Obama’s just-released Executive Order on Open Data Policy.
While publishing the data is a big deal in and of itself, the really big deal will come in seeing how others use it. We know – and welcome – that it will be used as another accountability check on us and our partner governments. We hope it also will be used by other investors to learn from our experience on how to increase the impact of the dollars they invest. For example, the agricultural data we are releasing may help us better understand why some farmers adopt improved practices more quickly than others, which can lead to program improvements to maximize impact, increase incomes and expand productivity.
Still, it is the unknown uses – the things we never imagined our data could be used for – that will likely prove to be the most exciting. Finance institutions, for example, looking to spur agricultural growth may gather information needed to develop innovative new products for smallholder farmers. Companies that want to evaluate the risks and benefits of operating in certain locations may find market information that is useful for evaluating risk and catalyzing new investments. Governments and civil society organizations can also analyze this data to drive forward their own complementary development and social programs.
MCC is opening our data because it is the right thing to do: American taxpayers deserve to see this part of their investment. But we are also opening our data because it is the smart thing to do. Information and data are tremendous strategic assets. They can help us enhance policies and practices to more fully contribute to economic growth, strengthen democratic institutions, improve the impact of our work, and inspire entrepreneurship, innovation and scientific discovery in the field of development and beyond. Follow our efforts and give us your feedback!
Posted on May 1, 2013 by Daniel W. Yohannes, Chief Executive Officer
Former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice participated in MCC’s 2013 Forum on Global Development this past Monday and engaged in a lively discussion with Frank Sesno, the Director of the School of Media and Public Affairs at The George Washington University. Dr. Rice described the MCC model as the best combination of American interests and values. She sees this in the U.S. Government’s willingness to partner with the developing world through MCC to help countries determined to help themselves. She sees this in how MCC partners within countries, engaging directly with citizens, businesses, government ministries, and nongovernmental organizations and encouraging them to map out their own, homegrown path to development. And, she also sees MCC’s strength in catalyzing partnerships between developing countries, who motivate each other to reform their policies in order to compete and qualify for MCC funding, in what she—and so many others—aptly call the MCC Effect.
We share Secretary’s Rice affirmation of the power of partnerships. Results-focused partnerships that leverage our limited resources, amplify our intended impact and sustain the benefits of our investments have been—and will continue to be—a priority for MCC. With support from both Chevron and the United Nations Foundation, Monday’s Forum created the perfect opportunity to discuss how partnerships advance effective development and make a lasting difference in the lives of the world’s poor. More than 200 people attended as we celebrated such partnerships by recognizing the achievements of this year’s recipients of MCC’s Country Commitment Award, Corporate Award and Next Generation Award.
Mrs. Sophia Mohapi of MCA-Lesotho received MCC’s Country Commitment Award, recognizing her efforts to partner with Lesotho’s government to secure additional funding to sustain the MCC-funded investments made in health and water. Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, Inc. won MCC’s Corporate Award, recognizing this Vermont company’s strong partnerships with fair trade coffee growers in MCC partner countries that help promote food security and long-term prosperity. Jessica Matthews and Julia Silverman of Uncharted Play were presented the Next Generation Award by DC United star player Dwayne De Rosario for their SOCCKET, a clever soccer ball invention that doubles as an eco-friendly portable generator. By forging partnerships with sponsors and local implementation partners around the world, the SOCCKET creators have ensured that minutes of play can lead to hours of electricity for those families struggling off the electrical grid. These honorees demonstrate what is possible through partnering. I invite you to learn more about their stories and be inspired by their compassion and creativity to uplift the poor and vulnerable.
We were also pleased that Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Deputy National Security Advisor Michael Froman could join us. Senator Leahy concluded the Forum by presenting MCC’s Corporate Award and reaffirming that partnerships are key to delivering development assistance effectively. Mr. Froman highlighted the importance of integrated and coordinated strategies, including input from MCC as well as private companies, to the Administration’s global development strategy.
What continues to resonate with me from this week’s Forum is the sheer determination and commitment by government, civil society and the private sector to do more by partnering more. This is what has made—and will continue to make—a tangible difference in the lives of the world’s poor.
Posted on March 1, 2013 by Andria Hayes-Birchler, Senior Development Policy Officer
In addition to the obvious role MCC’s scorecards play in selecting MCC’s partner countries, many people have suggested the scorecards provide an incentive for countries to reform policies, strengthen institutions and improve data quality in order to become more competitive for MCC assistance. This is referred to as the “MCC Effect.”
But does the MCC Effect really exist? And if so, how influential is it? Are there circumstances where it may be more or less influential?
Brad Parks and Zach Rice at the College of William and Mary explore these questions in a recently released paper entitled “Measuring the Policy Influence of the Millennium Challenge Corporation: A Survey Based Approach.” Parks and Rice present results of their survey of 640 MCC stakeholders, including foreign government officials, U.S. Government officials, contractors, civil society, and private sector members. For those of you disinclined to read the full 128-page report (although you should!), the authors also published a brief synopsis of their findings.
The good news for MCC? Parks and Rice find evidence to support the idea that the prospect of MCC eligibility has served as an effective incentive for policy reform. In fact, 92 percent of respondents stated that the MCC scorecards had an impact on reform efforts (ranging from “marginal impact to few important reform efforts” to “instrumental to many reform efforts”), and respondents identified 67 governments that undertook reforms to improve performance of their country on at least one of the MCC eligibility indicators.
Here’s what else the report found: The MCC Effect seems to be particularly strong in Threshold Program countries, where 68 percent of respondents from these countries reported that the MCC eligibility criteria were either “central to a few important reform efforts” or “instrumental to many important reform efforts.” Among respondents from compact countries, 64 percent reported that the MCC eligibility criteria were either “central to a few important reform efforts” or “instrumental to many important reform efforts.”
And among respondents from candidate countries—which have never received a single dollar in MCC assistance—41 percent reported that the MCC eligibility criteria were either “central to a few important reform efforts” or “instrumental to many important reform efforts.”
According to the paper, development stakeholders recognize the MCC scorecard as an influential policy assessment. When asked to identify the three most influential external assessments of government performance from a list of 18 options, respondents repeatedly identified the Millennium Challenge Account eligibility criteria and the United Nations Millennium Development Goals.
MCC is delighted to see such strong indications of the MCC Effect in the survey data. As the Center for Global Development points out, these findings are based on the perceptions of MCC stakeholders and additional work is needed to ground-truth these perceptions. MCC recently released an issue brief on the MCC Effect , which outlines how MCC defines the MCC effect, highlights additional findings from the Parks and Rice survey and lists illustrative examples of the MCC Effect in action.
We welcome additional examples and empirical research on the topic from MCC stakeholders, independent evaluators and academics; please e-mail me to share or request additional information.
Posted on December 6, 2012 by Howard W. Buffett, Executive Director, The Howard G. Buffett Foundation
The role of philanthropy is changing for the better, and with the October 24th release of its first five impact evaluations, the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) is helping lead that change. For too long, funding for development – both private and public – has not been held accountable on measuring real impact. There are many reasons for this. It can be challenging, time-consuming and expensive to determine precisely which elements of complex aid packages are reducing poverty, and it can be even more difficult to justify investing in building evidence for what works when resources are scarce and the development need is so great. Any philanthropist constantly faces this tension, and we have found that it becomes tempting to look only at easily measurable activities like farmer training or direct measures of success like improving farmer yields – areas where we can directly observe how we are addressing poverty. The truth is, this approach both inhibits creative solutions and confines long-term decision-making. In the end, until we know what really works and why, we are destined to repeat the mistakes of the past and run the risk of missing enormous opportunities to build support for the real “game changers.”
I learned firsthand about MCC’s work when I served in government, and I often find myself gaining new insights from their experiences. Their recent release of the analysis of their impact evaluation is one of those moments. In fact, of the five impact evaluations just released, The Howard G. Buffett Foundation’s interests overlap with four of them: we also do smallholder farming training in El Salvador, Nicaragua, Honduras, and Ghana. Given the scale at which MCC works, we contacted them to learn as much as we could from their experience.
MCC has some important lessons for the development community – other U.S. agencies, donors, multinational corporations working in emerging markets, and philanthropies alike stand to learn a great deal. In the recently released “Impact Evaluations of Agriculture Projects,” part of MCC’s compelling Principles into Practice series, they have identified five key maxims that should be taken into account by all of us:
- Define early the program logic and objectives of the evaluation, and how to integrate the two.
- Engage early and communicate often.
- Foster joint ownership by aligning incentives.
- Match evaluation methodology and program design.
- Focus on long-term impacts but be prepared to show early results.
Gaining these important insights has taken time, expertise and resiliency. As MCC has been bold to admit, in a refreshingly forthright and transparent fashion, it also takes occasional failures. As our foundation has learned, mistakes are unavoidable, but they only truly become mistakes when you fail to learn from them. Our foundation has spent the last 15 years and over $300 million across more than 70 countries, and we have made our fair share of errors along the way. Without rigorous evaluations to understand why goals are not always fully achieved, we can miss out on learning from those mistakes and miss the opportunity to share that learning with others.
MCC’s first set of independent impact evaluations raises some interesting questions about training farmers and how to measure the most important impact we all want to achieve: fostering prosperity and improving livelihoods. For example, in the three projects where MCC’s investments in training and improved inputs led to increased farmer incomes, these increases did not also result in increased income for the household as a whole. How can this be true? MCC has several theories: small farmer households typically derive income from a number of sources and it may be that increased farm income reduces the pressure to produce income elsewhere; it may be a data collection problem where current measures of household income are not accurately capturing reality; or it may be some other reason. MCC does not yet have a definitive answer, but by identifying the question, they can better guide their analysis of existing data and improve the data collection for the pipeline of project evaluations that are in process to find the answer. This will in turn inform program design, which will help all of us investing in farmer training. MCC’s approach and knowledge base has already encouraged our foundation to make a larger investment in agriculture in El Salvador, and it has informed the design of a new initiative that we are beginning in Ghana.
Learning lessons in the absence of a strong evaluation mechanism is a painful, time-consuming and expensive way to learn, but it is not uncommon in development. By focusing on learning as much as we have focused on doing, we can all become smarter, more efficient and more focused on ideas that actually have more lasting impact in the long run. That’s why MCC’s approach is effective: they invest in accountability and transparency upfront so they can learn faster and improve their work more quickly and cost-effectively over the long-run. By sharing that knowledge with all of us, we all have the opportunity to learn.
This transparency and honesty sets an example for our sector, and we all stand to benefit by being more efficient in our investments. MCC’s first five impact evaluations are a landmark step toward smarter, better and more accountable development around the world –and at a time when it could not be needed more.
Posted on August 24, 2012 by Oliver Pierson, Resident Country Director
MCC and our counterparts at MCA-Namibia are proud to see that Namibia has been chosen to host the 10th Adventure Travel World Summit (ATWS) taking place in October 2013. The ATWS will draw around 600 delegates and many of the biggest players in the adventure travel tourism industry to Namibia to discuss industry best practices and collaborate on issues facing adventure travel.
MCA-Namibia provided support to the Namibian Ministry of Environment and Tourism in developing Namibia’s bid to host the summit. The MCC-funded tourism project in Namibia, part of the country’s overall $304.5 million compact, is focused around encouraging private investment in the tourism industry, supporting communal conservancies to establish and manage tourism enterprises, and broadening the marketing of Namibia as a tourist destination.
MCC has also worked toward increasing the capacity of Namibia’s tourism industry and improving its management by funding training courses toward the certification of Namibian tour guides. The training courses create new jobs in the sector and work to promote a skilled and educated labor force to cater to the needs of a growing tourist industry. Tourism, already Namibia’s second-most lucrative industry, has the potential to be a strong source of economic growth, helping create more jobs and reduce poverty.
The selection of Namibia, the first African country to host the ATWS, will highlight Namibia’s tourism industry and ideally foster opportunities to build on MCC-funded work in this key sector and drive new private sector investments in tourism.
For more information about the Namibia Compact, visit www.mcc.gov/namibia.
Posted on August 20, 2012 by B. Tsolmon and L. Gerelmaa, Millennium Challenge Account-Mongolia
Severe winter air pollution in Ulaanbaatar, the capital of Mongolia, has become a major concern for the city’s 1.3 million residents, which is nearly half the country’s total population. A majority of Ulaanbaatar’s air pollution comes from districts populated with gers, traditional Mongolian houses where lower-income households live.
Women head many of these ger households. They rely on burning raw coal in inefficient stoves to heat the poorly insulated gers—a primary source of the city's air pollution, which fuels environmental and health risks and causes economic impacts. To address this concern, a facility was established within the scope of the compact's Energy and Environment Project to fund financial incentives and technical assistance for adopting cleaner, more efficient technologies for use in heating the gers.
The project’s particular and positive impact on gender issues recently gained international attention with the July 2012 visit of Melanne Verveer, U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues, as part of a women’s empowerment conference held in Mongolia.
Ambassador Verveer paid a visit to Norovkhand and her family in the Bayanzurkh district outside Ulaanbaatar. Norovkhand obtained a subsidized energy efficient stove through MCA-Mongolia, the local entity managing compact implementation. Norovkhand, a single mother of three and a grandmother of one, shared her experiences on how much coal she has saved in using her new stove, compared with the traditional stove she used previously.
Most importantly, the energy-efficient stove, she said, simplifies routine housework since it requires less fueling, generates less ash and is easy to clean.
“It is very affordable and accessible especially for female-headed households like us, given the subsidies provided by the project,” she said.
Norovkhand’s family is also among potential beneficiaries of the hashaa (yard) plot privatization and registration activity under the compact’s Property Rights Project. With their land formally registered, Norovkhand’s family and many others will have an opportunity to access bank credit, enabling them to make more productive use of their plots.
MCA-Mongolia is tracking the longer-term impacts of increased asset ownership through its monitoring and evaluation work, which also includes a complementary qualitative survey on how increasing asset ownership among women impacts household dynamics.
To track the difference the compact is making for Mongolians at both household and national levels, a number of gender-responsive actions are underway across the program to ensure that women and men benefit equitably from the compact, which is key for sustainable development and economic growth of benefit for all.
Posted on August 3, 2012 by Preston Winter, Deputy Resident Country Director
The event was hosted by Santa Rosa Guachipilín, a small town situated on the newly-constructed Northern Transnational Highway, one of the key projects under the MCC-funded compact with El Salvador. The highway connects remote towns to the rest of the country and provides new economic opportunities for the residents of the Northern Zone. As part of this investment, more than 220 kilometers of road, three large bridges, and 20 smaller bridges have been rehabilitated or constructed in northern El Salvador to help improve connectivity with the rest of the country. Given the mountainous terrain, the highway also happens to be a great place for a downhill skateboarding event, drawing competitors from around Latin America and even the United States.
It was a joy to see so many Salvadorans, both young and old, enjoying the event. More than 45 skateboarders flew down the course at up to 45 mph. The highway, smoothly paved and ideal for such an event, overlooks the green mountains of the Department of Santa Ana. In between heats, we also enjoyed a variety of pupusas, local versions of shaved ice and other food that local vendors offered.
The mayor was very pleased to have such a strong turnout. Before the construction, it would have been rare to have a gathering of Salvadorans from various parts of the country, including many who had never before seen the town. Now it is only a short drive from nearby towns and major highways, opening up opportunities for visitors to enjoy the natural beauty that this region has to offer and attend unique events like this one.
Posted on August 3, 2012 by Molly Glenn, Deputy Resident Country Director
This June, I traveled to Pissila, in the Sanmatega province of Burkina Faso. I was there to attend the closing ceremony for the Burkinabé Response to Improve Girls’ Chances to Succeed (BRIGHT) II Project, funded through the MCC compact with Burkina Faso. Speaking with students, teachers and parents participating in the BRIGHT II Project, I truly experienced firsthand the benefits of MCC’s investment.
The BRIGHT program is a collaborative effort of the United States and Burkina Faso to improve rates of children’s primary school attendance, completion, and promotion to secondary schools. To date, the program, including work performed under the MCC compact, has educated over 27,000 students, including 16,000 girls, and has built 132 primary schools across 10 provinces. The numbers are impressive—but they don’t tell the whole story.
In Pissila, the success and visibility of the BRIGHT program was evident from the high-level participation at the well-attended closing ceremony. The Prime Minister of Burkina Faso, Luc Adolphe Tiao; the Minister of Education and Literacy, Koumba Boly; and U.S. Ambassador Thomas Dougherty were all on hand to share in the celebration. Officials from MCC, USAID, and Plan International were also present. The stars of the show, however, were the 500 students from the BRIGHT school of Pissila, who were as proud as could be to show off their school and accomplishments.
We arrived early on Thursday morning to enthusiastic cheers and waves from students of all ages. Three large tents were set up at the center of the school, flanked by new classrooms, offices and teacher housing. Boys and girls, waving American and Burkinabé flags and proudly wearing their school shirts displaying the BRIGHT II emblem, greeted the prime minister and U.S. ambassador as they arrived. The atmosphere radiated with excitement and joy; students and teachers alike were proud that their school had been selected to host such an event.
The moving speeches and lively performances diverted our attention from the hot Burkina Faso sun and 100+ degree temperatures. Enthralling music and traditional dances had the whole crowd applauding, especially for the youngest dancer in a local troupe who was able to shake the prime minister’s hand. Later, Celia Ella Kafando, a fifth-grader, courageously took to the podium to make a speech on behalf of the students of Pissila.
Though her head barely reached the top of the podium, Celia spoke with a clear and strong voice, thanking MCC and the American people for building her school. To the visible enjoyment of the prime minister, the education minister (one of Burkina Faso’s two female ministers) and the region’s governor (also a woman), Celia shared that many of her fellow students aspired to become governors and ministers thanks to their education. Everyone smiled when the prime minister and education minister were given the “key” to the school, a beautiful, symbolic oversized key made by Burkinabe bronze workers.
The prime minister’s speech was unexpectedly touching and honest. Speaking directly to the students, he admitted that school was not always easy, recognizing that most of them had to move away from home, learn a new language (though French is the official language, over 60 languages are spoken in Burkina Faso) and—perhaps the most universal problem of all—wake up early to get to class. He encouraged the students not to give up and to follow their dreams. Ambassador Dougherty echoed these sentiments in his speech, stating, “We hope each and every BRIGHT school graduate will have success in realizing their potential in the years to come.”
Though two more years remain until the compact’s end, it was encouraging to see such a successful closeout of this project. The Government of Burkina Faso has pledged to maintain the schools and remain committed to supporting girls’ education. In the words of Prime Minister Tiao, “The American people can trust us. We will take care to meet the challenges of underdevelopment.”
For more information about the Burkina Faso Compact, visit www.mcc.gov/burkinafaso.
Posted on July 30, 2012 by Steve Kaufmann, Chief of Staff
While visiting our compact work sites in Senegal last week, I was struck by the ways in which water can both take and support life. My first site visit took me to the village of Ndioum, where MCC is working with MCA-Senegal to build a 160 meter bridge over the Doué River. Now, to get from their homes to their fields, many of the residents must take either pirogues (small canoe-like boats) or a ferry which runs infrequently and is often under repair. Tragically, fatal accidents can occur when pirogues tip due to strong currents or poor weight distribution.
After surveying the work site, my colleagues and I struck up conversation with two village elders. The elders explained that they have been waiting for over 25 years for a bridge to be built. While we were speaking, a young boy named Masseck joined our conversation. He was excited for the bridge to be completed; he told us that his older brother had drowned while crossing the river, and he didn’t want to lose another family member. We knew the river was dangerous, but Masseck’s story reminded us of the urgency of completing construction of the Ndioum Bridge. It will not only save lives, but will improve access to the fertile lands across the river and help farmers get their crops to market.
As we were touring the site, a man approached our car and asked if he could take us to visit the old irrigation pump in the Ngallenka area. We agreed, and upon arrival, our new friend, Mamadou Alanane Hame, began to speak passionately about his experience working with MCC.
Mr. Hame emphasized the participatory decision-making process that allowed him, as an expected beneficiary, to voice his opinions on the project. He remembered that during compact consultations, community members had talked about the importance of irrigation to help assure food security in the region. Now, with improved means to bring critical water to agricultural fields, the local population will plant crops and boost their yields. This unsolicited praise provided strong reinforcement for the importance of MCC’s transparent practices and our commitment to listening to beneficiaries and our partner countries.
Reflecting on my trip, the importance of water is more striking than ever. The agricultural viability of the Sahel, a zone that extends the entire width of Africa from Senegal in the west to Eritrea in the east, is rapidly decreasing as desertification claims an increasingly large amount of previously fertile land every year. As the inhabitants of the Sahel find themselves at greater risk of famine, the difference between food security and insecurity can be the difference between life and death.
MCC has reason to be proud for investing in over 30,000 hectares of irrigated land in Senegal, which is expected to directly benefit more than 250,000 individuals. In partnership with MCA-Senegal and the residents of Ndioum and the Ngallenka area, MCC is implementing water and infrastructure projects that will help to save lives, promote economic growth and reduce poverty.
For more information about the Senegal Compact, visit www.mcc.gov/senegal.
Posted on June 14, 2012 by Sheila Herrling, Vice President for Policy and Evaluation
If imitation is the greatest form of flattery, MCC should be very flattered by changes happening in Morocco. CEO Daniel Yohannes and I just finished a visit to Morocco to see progress under MCC's $697.5 million compact in agriculture, artisanal fisheries and artisan development. Throughout our visit, one message rang loud and clear: MCC’s approach is changing the way Morocco does business.
At MCC, we talk a lot about a continuum of results, whereby we track the impact of our investments from policy reform and changed business practices to inputs, outputs and, eventually, outcomes largely measured through income gains for program beneficiaries. While we saw representations of the larger outputs achieved to date, we heard something equally interesting but harder to measure--that the Government of Morocco is applying the MCC model--transparency, accountability, results-focus, and standard-setting--to its own operations. Some quick examples cited by government officials:
• The Minister of Agriculture and Maritime Fisheries described the Morocco Compact’s Fruit Tree Productivity Project as the Government of Morocco’s model for farmer aggregation, one of two key pillars in its own agricultural development strategy or “Green Morocco Plan.” Like MCC, the Government of Morocco has committed to making agriculture an even greater growth engine in the country by focusing on the organization and professional development of farmers as a principal tool.
• The Minister of Finance and Economy applied MCC’s model when recently presenting the Government of Morocco’s first ever citizen-driven budget. In fact, he credited MCC on several occasions for inspiring participative public consultation in the design and implementation of newer Moroccan government programs.
• The Minister of Handicrafts is bringing MCC's high standards on social and environmental impact assessment to bear in broader Government of Morocco investments.
While we won't know the full impact of MCC's investments until some time after the end of the compact, in the meantime, it was gratifying to hear that MCC’s model is fast becoming the model of choice across the Government of Morocco.
Posted on June 7, 2012 by Daniel W. Yohannes , Chief Executive Officer
I am in Jordan, one of the world's driest countries, where severe water scarcity impacts every aspect of daily life.
I met with Fatima Ali, a widow, whose entire income is spent on rent. The water pipes to Fatima's home leak and the wastewater pipes overflow regularly. When water does flow in, Fatima uses old paint cans to store it because she does not have proper water storage containers. Fatima's neighbor, Sulaiman Ali (no relation to Fatima), has similar challenges. The diabetic father of three lacks proper water storage capabilities, and the inconsistent water supply makes operating his dialysis equipment extremely difficult.
MCC's $275 million compact with the Government of Jordan is designed to address some of these challenges.
Through the repair and replacement of broken or leaking pipes and the installation of proper water storage tanks, MCC will increase water availability and quality in poor neighborhoods like the one where Fatima and Sulaiman live. MCC's grant will also extend modern sewers to urban neighborhoods, improving wastewater collection and decommissioning the use of cesspits.
Today, I presided over the signing of a critical private sector agreement, a major step toward expanding the As Samra wastewater treatment plant. Originally built with help from the U.S. Agency for International Development, the As Samra wastewater treatment plant, once completed, will be one of the largest in the region. Approximately half of the financing for this expansion is being provided through private sector partners, proving once again that when governments create the right atmosphere for investment, the private sector will respond.
Together, these activities will benefit approximately 3 million Jordanians. For Fatima and Sulaiman, it means a better quality of life. For MCC, it means economic growth and development for a critical partner country in the Middle East. Truly, when water flows, prosperity follows.
Posted on May 31, 2012 by Alain Diouf, MCA-Senegal Property Rights and Land Policy Director , and Kent Elbow, MCC Property Rights and Land Policy Specialist
We knew we were on to something in Senegal—that what we learned about the role customary land rights can play in alleviating poverty was worth sharing with the wider land practice community.
In recent years, many African governments have developed legislation to recognize the legitimacy of informal (mostly unwritten) customary rights to land. Governments have introduced a variety of legislative tools to formalize, protect and secure those rights. Each country brings a different approach to this, but in many instances the process helps lay the foundation for increased economic development.
Customary land rights are the starting point of any formalization initiative, which isn’t easy. We need to help contribute to economic objectives while preserving or enhancing the rights and interests of the powerless. We do this in two main ways.
The first task is to identify the holders of customary rights, which requires recognizing categories like individual and collective rights. Analyses of community resources, such as pastures and forests, need to include detailed socio-economic information. Where community land-use plans do not yet exist, we identify various interests and base our approach on the active participation of all parties in working toward a consensus on how existing rights are to be presented and preserved during the formalization process.
The Land Tenure Security Activity, funded by Senegal’s $540 million MCC compact, is working in the Senegal River Valley to determine the boundaries between agriculture and livestock while also accounting for the areas where the two overlap. MCA-Senegal will act upon some of the decisions negotiated during the first phase of the activity—such as the boundaries of cattle trails through agricultural land leading to water points—by planting trees.
The second major element of a successful formalization program is ensuring that fairness remains a dominant principle in ongoing and future land allocation. Formalization is not just identifying rights and issuing corresponding pieces of paper. Mechanisms must be developed and activated to provide for the exchange and reallocation of land rights so resources can be put to their most productive use while ensuring that rights are protected. Governance of land allocation works best when it is transparent, democratic and participatory.
The Land Tenure Security Activity in Senegal is demonstrating that existing customary land rights can be comprehensively identified and documented—if one incorporates careful design and planning, inclusive methodologies, copious work, and adequate time. It is also demonstrating that local land allocation principles and processes can be developed and recognized as legitimate if all stakeholders are given a voice in their development.
Yes, customary land rights are messy—but protecting customary land rights while moving toward a more formal land management system is both fair and economically productive. An even more fundamental goal must be to ensure that all stakeholders have a voice in the more permanent institutions of land governance. In the Senegal River Valley, land is governed at the community level, and there are positive signs that previously unheard voices are now finding a stage.
“These workshops have changed us as well as our community decision-makers,” the president of a women’s producer group said after a community workshop. “We no longer hesitate to speak our minds and address the Rural Council. This is a new situation for us.”
MCC, the Government of Senegal and MCA-Senegal are excited about the good work that has been accomplished and are committed to continuing to learn and share our learning with land practitioners facing similar challenges around the world.
Posted on May 29, 2012 by Jolyne Sanjak, Managing Director, Technical Services Division
MCC and a majority of our partner countries believe that improvements to their agricultural and rural sectors are a crucial part of lifting people out of poverty and to improving food security. MCC’s portfolio includes $4.4 billion of investments in improvements to the agricultural and rural sectors that are relevant to reducing food insecurity. This includes a substantial focus on infrastructure investments in large-scale irrigation schemes to ensure reliable access to water and improved yields, as well as roads and post-harvest storage and packaging facilities to move goods to market more efficiently.
MCC projects also invest in direct assistance to farmers with a focus on smallholders. Training activities help farmers learn about cultivating high-value yields, deal with pests and diseases and manage scarce land resources. Rural credit programs are designed to raise incomes by expanding access to credit to help purchase inputs. Land tenure projects work to create secure land rights and efficient institutions for managing land rights.
In seven years, MCC-funded projects have trained nearly 200,000 farmers and assisted more than 3,500 enterprises worldwide. Roughly 170,000 hectares under production receive MCC support through technical assistance, new or rehabilitated irrigation systems or access to agricultural inputs and credit. Land tenure projects have supported legal and regulatory reform in six countries and the formalization of land rights of more than 1 million hectares of rural land, including farmland, grazing areas and forests.
Just last month, our commitment to food security received high praise from the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, an independent, nonpartisan organization. MCC received an “outstanding” evaluation in The 2012 Progress Report on U.S. Leadership in Global Agricultural Development, a thorough study of how the U.S. Government is performing in its commitment to improve food security and support agricultural development in regions with the greatest levels of rural poverty and hunger.
“The Millennium Challenge Corporation has demonstrated outstanding leadership in agricultural development in its role as the largest U.S. Government provider of funding for agriculture and food security infrastructure in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia,” the report said. “It has increased its capacity to disburse funds and complete agreements in a timely fashion.”
The report chose Ghana, one of our partner countries, for a case study of U.S. Government development efforts. It labeled the U.S. Government's actions there as “outstanding” and said the MCC compact's “vital work in agriculture has laid a solid foundation for expanded Feed the Future activities.” The MCC compact also supported innovation in applying land tenure law in Ghana by demonstrating an approach to formally recording rural land rights in the context of strong customary practices.
As project results continue to come in, MCC remains committed to learning and being held accountable for how well these program outputs translate into increased incomes and well-being for program beneficiaries. MCC currently has 16 independent impact evaluations underway to address questions such as the impact of our programs on increased productivity, investment in high-value agriculture and business and marketing opportunities. Ultimately, these evaluations are designed to measure and better understand our impact on incomes and poverty reduction. Just as MCC contributed its leadership and technical skill to the State Department and USAID as the Feed the Future Initiative was developed and moved into implementation, we see our rigorous approach to monitoring progress and evaluating impacts as a source of learning for the whole U.S. Government. Learning from our programs can also contribute lessons for donors worldwide.
At MCC, we are proud of our investments and inspired by the changes we are seeing in people’s lives as a result of our compacts. At the same time, we are humbled by the gravity of poverty and the level of food insecurity in our partner countries, fully realizing that true poverty reduction and economic growth are not easy tasks. They will continue to require full attention and support, including using better evidence as we gain it, to improve and promote effective programs.
This recent report is both an endorsement of MCC’s seven years of work in this field and also a reminder of the urgent need for continued investments in agriculture and food security programs around the world.
Posted on May 9, 2012 by Jonathan Brooks, Managing Director for Europe, Asia, Pacific, and Latin America
A community irrigation system created with the help of MCC’s compact with Honduras recently received international recognition—the latest example of how MCC’s investments provide a model for sustainable poverty growth in our partner countries.
The Cosechas de Agua rainwater harvesting project, developed through the compact’s Agricultural Public Goods Grant Facility and managed by CHF International, received the Latin American prize for innovative water management projects in the face of climate change at the World Water Forum in Marseille, France, on March 15.
Cosechas de Agua harvests rainwater for use in irrigation in the arid southern municipalities of Nacaome, Langue, Goascorán, and Aramecina. It captures rainwater and then uses a system of hydraulic works, dams and pipelines to store and distribute the water to fields. The project aims to introduce complementary irrigation systems for 188 agricultural producers over 98 hectares of land, intended to increase their income.
Access to irrigation and other support through the compact was intended to allow farmers to diversify their crops, increase their yields and expand their access to new customers nationally, regionally and internationally.
The $50,000 prize—sponsored by the Mexican national water authority Conagua, the FEMSA Foundation, the Inter-American Development Bank, and the Water Center for Latin America and the Caribbean—will be used to develop the project over the next three years. Cosechas de Agua officials will also be invited to present progress on the system's economic, social and environmental impacts at the next World Water Forum in March 2015.
The Agricultural Public Goods Grant Facility was part of the $68 million Rural Development Project, which sought to increase the productivity and business skills of farmers who operate small- and medium-size farms, as well as their employees. The project is expected to help more than 357,000 people over the next 20 years and raise their household incomes by $53 million.
Posted on April 25, 2012 by Daniel W. Yohannes, Chief Executive Officer
This post first appeared on Visa Viewpoints, the official blog of Visa Inc., on April 25, 2012.
Since 2004, the Millennium Challenge Corporation has been leading the fight against global poverty. As an innovative and independent U.S. development assistance agency, we are changing the conversation on how best to deliver smart assistance by focusing on good policies, country-owned development solutions and results. Our success rests in large part on our ability to forge successful partnerships for sustainable development. This means partnering with countries around the world, civil society, non-governmental organizations, the private sector, and other government agencies.
One lesson we know for sure: Assistance alone is not enough. What will be enough to tip the scale toward sustainable growth is the innovation and investment driven by the private sector. The private sector creates jobs and new products. The private sector is where entrepreneurs are born and thrive. And, the growth, investment, trade, and business generated by the private sector will help lift people out of poverty.
Today, the Millennium Challenge Corporation convenes our first Forum on Global Development. This will be a unique occasion for visionaries and practitioners in international development to meet, exchange ideas and honor three outstanding awardees for their work on gender integration, investment and innovation.
On behalf of MCC, I am proud that we will recognize Visa as the recipient of our first Corporate Award for demonstrating exemplary commitment to eradicating poverty in the developing world. We are impressed with Visa’s commitment to advancing financial inclusion by leveraging its core business along with innovation, strategic partnerships and financial literacy. We applaud Visa’s public-private partnership with the Government of Rwanda, including the extensive Charter of Collaboration as well as partnerships with organizations such as Women’s World Banking and GSMA mWomen, to advance financial access for women and their efforts to bring financial literacy education to millions of people worldwide.
In the global fight against financial exclusion and poverty, no single organization has all the answers. But through innovative solutions from—and partnerships among—governments, the private sector and civil society, we are making a difference.
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